Saturday night, Brooklyn-based duo Z&A took the stage at the Rock Shop in the borough’s Park Slope
neighborhood. It was a cold, rainy evening, but that did not stop a decent sized crowd from venturing out to the show.
Opening act Genghis Hans–also hailing from Brooklyn–set the stage for Z&A with a set full of bass heavy indie-pop. The duo features Hansdale Hsu on guitar vocals and Stryker Matthews on programming and synths. With the crowd still filling in, Genghis Hans managed to get a few bodies moving.
Joined by a drummer for the evening, Jake Zavracky and Amanda Khiri–Z&A, respectively–took
the stage behind mic stands wrapped in strings of light. Zavracky set up shop with his guitar behind an array of synths and effect pedals. His ingenuinty with those effects is one of the driving forces behind what makes Z&A’s music so interesting.
The other force–emphasis on force–is Khiri’s powerhouse vocals. Khiri took the stage Saturdaynight with an Erykah Badu
-esque afro, but a voice closer to Jill Scott
. Coupled with her strong vocals, Khiri is a natural performer, and easily kept the crowd interested in Z&A’s set.
“I got my good hair on tonight,” Khiri informed the crowd. The band started its set with “The Transistor.” The song features a funky synth bassline and a trippy vocoder guitar riff. Bordering on R&B/soul and psychedelic rock, the song definitely set the pace for the rest of Z&A’s catalog.
The band’s set drew material from last year’s self-titled album and the recent Vicodin Blues EP. The title track from that EP is a stirring track reminiscent of the Doors’ “Five To One”–also known as the sample from Jay Z
’s “Takeover.” The song is a haunting tale of paranoia and dependence: “Call the nurses/Bring the vicodin/Leave my dagger/Someone’s creeping in.”
The set got progressively lighter with some more dance friendly tracks. When the band got to “Father’s House,” Khiri delivered the first verse acapella. It was yet another reminder that this woman has some serious pipes. The reggae-tinged beat came in, reinforcing Z&A’s ability to defy the conventions of traditional genres.
The high-point of the set was “Neon Arches.” The song has an undeniably danceable beat and a huge hook. This track has gained some traction on the internet and with local DJs
. The hook, “I can’t get enough/Of your love,” is so ubiquitous and is more than capable of capturing a mainstream audience with the right exposure.
Z&A’s brand of experimental, alternative R&B is incredibly exciting and current. With artists like Frank Ocean
, the Weeknd
, How To Dress Well
, etc. redefining the standards of R&B music, Z&A is more than capable of becoming part of that discussion.